PANORA – For the fourth year in a row, North Polk will be sending both its boys’ and girls’ cross country teams to state after the Comet boys took first and the girls came in third at the Class 2A state qualifying meet in Panora Oct. 24.
The Comet boys – ranked third in 2A – easily outclassed the rest of the 15-team field at Panora.
North Polk placed four of the top six individual runners, scoring 42 points to claim victory by 24 points. Albia and Shenandoah – the 13th and fifth-ranked teams in 2A – both scored 66 points to earn the other two qualifying team spots in the boys’ race.
Peter Smith, Ryley Sandberg, Reed Smith and Christian Berglund were the four Comet boys to qualify individually for state.
Peter completed the 5-kilometer course in 16 minutes, 58 seconds to place second, despite battling a sinus infection that kept him out of the team’s final regular-season meet. He fell just short of the championship as Albia’s Colton Dorpinghaus crossed the finish line just a step ahead of him in 16:56.
"Peter battled with Dorpinghaus for much of the race, but he could never pull away," North Polk head coach Steve Leach said. "I thought he ran a great race considering the fact that he was still suffering from a sinus infection that significantly impacted his breathing."
Sandberg wasn’t far behind Peter in third place as he finished the race in 17:11. Reed ran a fourth-place time of 17:45 to make North Polk history.
"Ryley was steady in third place and Reed became the first male runner that I have coached to qualify for state as an individual all four years," Leach said.
Reed finished 10th as a freshman, fifth as a sophomore and seventh as a junior during state qualifying meets.
Berglund was the lone underclassman to place in the top 10 for the Comet boys at Panora. He ran a sixth-place time of 17:52.
"Christian is a very calm sophomore who really started racing during the last two kilometers," Leach said. "He probably caught eight to 10 runners in the last half mile. We lose some very talented seniors next year, so it is comforting for me to know I have a returning runner who is capable of qualifying for state as an individual."
The final runner to earn points for the North Polk boys was Corey Richards. Richards came in 27th at 19:04.
"Corey ran a solid race as our fifth man," Leach said. "He, Nick Kibby, Matthew Turk and (alternate) Michael Rimathe have done a wonderful job of performing as varsity athletes in their first long-term opportunity to do so."
On the girls side, North Polk made it to state for the seventh time in succession.
The Comet girls had gone through a rough year trying to gradually get into peak form at the right time. They struggled to finish in the top half of several meets as a result.
But the strategy to peak at the end paid off at Panora as the Comet girls scored 89 points to easily beat West Central Valley (116 points) for the third and final team qualifying spot.
"Each girl had to perform her role or we would not have made it to state for the seventh year in a row," Leach said. "The girls have improved tremendously since the (Dallas Center-Grimes) meet at the beginning of the year. They have pushed themselves and each other in practices and meets and (at Panora) they were actually closer to first place than West Central Valley was to them."
Panorama – the No. 8 team in 2A – won the girls’ title with 63 points. No. 13 Greene County finished just ahead of North Polk in second with 84 points.
Sybbie Sears qualified individually for the third year in a row to lead the North Polk girls. The talented senior ran a 4-kilometer time of 16 minutes, 44 seconds to place sixth in a very competitive field.
Samantha Sinclair just missed making state individually. Sinclair came in 11th, ending up just two seconds shy of qualifying and only seven seconds behind Sears with a 16:51 showing.
"Sybbie and Sam ran in or near the top 10 for the entire race," Leach said. "Sybbie was within 16 seconds of her time last year on the same course and Sam gave a valiant effort to qualify, but she got caught near the end of the race. Still, Sam ran nearly a minute faster than last year."
Panorama’s Karlee Johnk was the runner to just nudge past Sinclair at the end to earn the final qualifying spot with a time of 16:49. Greene County’s Allison Higgins won the girls’ race in 15:45.
Rachel Zimmerman, Ohara Lesher and Emerson Sears were the other runners to earn points and help North Polk earn its trip to state.
Zimmerman ran a time of 17:20 to place 16th. Lesher and Emerson placed 31st and 32nd with respective times of 18:03 and 18:07.
Rachel, Ohara and Emerson ran smart races by holding back on the first half of the course before surging and catching a lot of girls from the 2-kilometer mark to the end," Leach said.
The state coed cross country meet will take place this Saturday at the Lakeside Municipal Golf Course in Fort Dodge. The meet will begin with the 4A girls at 11 a.m. and 2A competition starts with the girls’ race at 1 p.m.
Final team scores
Girls: 1. Panorama 63 points, 2. Greene County 84, 3. North Polk 89, 4. West Central Valley 116, 5. Missouri Valley 132, 6. Albia 156, 7. Red Oak 175, 8. I-35 177, 9. Clarinda 200, 10. Pella Christian 228, 11. Central Decatur 288, 12. Clarke 307.
Boys: 1. North Polk 42, 2. Albia 66, 3. Shenandoah 66, 4. Panorama 86, 5. Red Oak 124, 6. Pella Christian 220, 7. Woodward Academy 233, 8. Greene County 261, 9. Clarinda 277, 10. West Central Valley 290, 11. Clarke 302, 12. Missouri Valley 302, 13. Central Decatur 305, 14. I-35 352, 15. PCM 372.
Individual results – North Polk
Girls (4-kilometer): 6. Sybbie Sears, 16:44; 11. Samantha Sinclair, 16:51; 16. Rachel Zimmerman, 17:20; 31. Ohara Lesher, 18:03; 32. Emerson Sears, 18:07; 45. Vanessa Erickson, 19:00; 58. Tessa Subra, 20:06.
Boys (5-kilometer): 2. Peter Smith 16:58; 3. Ryley Sandberg, 17:11; 4. Reed Smith, 17:45; 6. Christian Berglund, 17:52; 27. Corey Richards, 19:04; 31. Nick Kibby, 19:10; 36. Matthew Turk, 19:31.